SINGAPORE: Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam revealed that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has been working with social media giants like Meta and Google in combating phishing scams related to compromised WhatsApp accounts.
In a written reply to two parliamentary questions on phishing scams on Tuesday (9 Jan), Minister Shanmugam detailed SPF’s strategies for countering these fraudulent activities.
He said the SPF has actively engaged with Meta to prevent further exploitation of compromised WhatsApp accounts once they are identified.
“To combat this scam variant, the SPF has been working with Meta to stop further abuse of compromised WhatsApp accounts as soon as they are detected.”
Concurrently, collaborative efforts with online platforms such as Google aim to implement enhanced security measures, including proactive detection and the blocking of phishing site URLs.
Moreover, the imminent rollout of the Online Criminal Harms Act, starting this quarter, will empower the Government to instruct online messaging platforms to deactivate potentially compromised or scam-related accounts, added Mr Shanmugam.
Mr Shanmugam was responding to parliamentary questions filed by Dr Wan Rizal, PAP Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar GRC and Mr Liang Eng Hwa, PAP MP for Bukit Panjang SMC.
Both MPs queried the Ministry about the recent surge in phishing scams, affecting over 237 victims since November 2023, leading to cumulative losses exceeding S$606,000.
They sought details about the Ministry’s enhanced measures to counter such WhatsApp phishing scams.
In response, Mr Shanmugam elucidated that the scams transpired when users unwittingly accessed a counterfeit WhatsApp website while attempting to log into their accounts on their computers.
Subsequently, scammers gained entry to victims’ WhatsApp accounts, assuming their identities to solicit funds from their acquaintances.
The police disclosed on 13 November 2023, that a minimum of 93 individuals had fallen prey to a phishing scam involving compromised WhatsApp accounts in November, resulting in losses amounting to at least S$176,000.
Additionally, a recent spike revealed that at least 83 victims succumbed to a DBS Bank phishing scam since January, losing at least S$155,000.
This fraudulent activity involved scammers masquerading as DBS officials through deceptive SMS messages.
Scam-related losses in Singapore hit S$2 billion over 3-year period
Between January 2020 and June 2023, victims in Singapore suffered approximately S$2 billion in losses due to scams.
Globally, scammers were estimated to have stolen around US$1.02 trillion from August 2022 to August 2023, as reported by a study conducted by the Global Anti-Scam Alliance and ScamAdviser, a data service provider.
The study highlighted that the average scam victim in Singapore lost US$4,031, the highest globally, followed by Switzerland at US$3,767 and Austria at US$3,484, pointing to the appeal of these affluent nations as targets for scammers.
On Tuesday, Singapore authorities disclosed advancements in combating scams through the collaboration of the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) with four major banks.
Utilizing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology, the ASC identified victims of job, investment, and other scams.
Employing a proactive strategy, potential victims were promptly alerted via SMS notifications, effectively mitigating further financial risks. DBS Bank, UOB Bank, OCBC Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank were the partnering banks involved.
During the joint operation from 16 September to 31 December 2023, the Police and the partnering banks sent over 48,000 SMS alerts to more than 15,000 scam victims who were customers of these banks. This concerted effort resulted in disrupting over 5,300 ongoing scams and preventing potential financial losses exceeding S$69.43 million.
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